For a lot of people, garlic is one of the most popular spices in their pantry. The herb can be used to punch up tomato sauce, chicken, shrimp, potatoes, stir fry or virtually any other beloved savory dish making it almost as versatile as salt and pepper. But the thing about garlic is, if you enjoy a meal that incorporates it, anyone who has a close conversation with you after is sure to know it.
As delicious as garlic is mid-meal, the aftertaste is…not great. Since garlic is so pungent, it can linger in your mouth for hours after a meal—not exactly ideal. If anyone knows how to get rid of garlic breath ASAP it’s dentists, who are intimately familiar with oral health. Here, two reveal their top tips.
Why Does Garlic Cause Bad Breath Anyway?
New York-based general and cosmetic dentist Dr. Lauren Becker, DDS, explains that the reason why garlic causes bad breath is because of the compounds it contains. “Garlic is a member of the allium family and contains many sulfur compounds,” she says. “These sulfur-containing compounds can linger on a person’s breath for hours.”
Dr. Becker adds that when garlic is cut or mashed, additional gas is released and mixes with gas-emitting bacteria, which then causes bad breath. She adds that onions are also an allium—a cousin of sorts to garlic—and can cause a similar smelly reaction.
Dentist Dr. Rashi Gupta, DMD, echos Dr. Becker, saying that the compounds in garlic are the bad breath culprit. “When you have a garlicky pizza, sulfur-releasing bacteria gets trapped in your mouth,” she says. “They sit there and continue releasing a very distinctive odor.”
So what can you do about it? Fortunately, you have some options.
How to Get Rid of Garlic Breath Fast
1. Incorporate neutralizing foods in your meal
Dr. Gupta says that there are some ingredients you can incorporate into your meal that will work to cut down on garlic’s strong aftertaste. “Think about fresh, crunchy fruits and veggies. Apples, pears, lettuce, mint, and parsley can help combat the garlic breath,” she says. For example, she says you can use these ingredients to make a side salad to eat after enjoying garlic bread. Probiotic yogurt is another neutralizing food that Dr. Gupta says can help.
2. Sip green tea
Both dentists say that sipping green tea with or after your meal can help too. “Green tea has polyphenols, which help to cover up the odor although won’t eliminate the odor entirely,” Dr. Becker says. In other words, consider it a holdover until you can steal away to brush your teeth. A bonus benefit: Dr. Gupta says that drinking green tea has other oral health benefits too, including reducing the risk of gum disease.
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3. Brush your teeth
This is an obvious solution, but Dr. Becker says it’s important to look for a toothpaste with a neutral pH and that contains fluoride. This, she says, is important for good breath and general overall oral hygiene. “Toothpaste is not one size fits all,” Dr. Gupta adds, saying that it’s important to consider your personal oral health needs. For example, do you have sensitive teeth? Are you interested in one with a whitening agent? Is gum health or plaque removal your biggest oral health goal? These are all questions to think about when shopping for toothpaste.
When you do head to the bathroom to brush your teeth after a garlic-filled meal, Dr. Gupta says to make sure you brush your tongue as well as your teeth. Otherwise, there’s a good chance your breath still won’t be all that fresh when you’re done brushing.
4. Rinse with mouthwash
Both dentists say that using mouthwash can also help nix bad breath, especially when it’s done in conjunction with brushing. “A good mouthwash has three main ingredients: fluoride to help prevent cavities, peroxide to whiten teeth, and essential oils to prevent plaque build-up,” Dr. Gupta says.
She adds that zinc is another mouthwash ingredient to look for as it’s especially powerful in killing sulfur-producing bacteria. Dr. Becker says that mouthwash with eucalyptol or menthol essential oils can especially help with bad breath.
If you brush your teeth and use mouthwash but you can still taste a hint of garlic in your mouth, it could be because you need to floss. “Food usually gets stuck on your tongue or in your gums. Immediately, this causes bad breath and, ultimately, could lead to gum disease and tooth decay,” Dr. Gupta says. This, she says, is why flossing is so important. As for your tongue, she says that using a tongue scraper can help get rid of the bad breath-causing bacteria you may otherwise miss.
As you can see, there’s absolutely no need to avoid garlic to save your breath—especially since the herb is full of health benefits. Keeping these solutions in mind, you can enjoy your lemon-garlic shrimp without feeling like you need to cover your mouth with your hand when talking to your friends (or date) after.